Baby Led Weaning


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There is more than one safe approach to starting solids. In my family, we decided to take the Baby Led Weaning approach because we felt it was a natural follow up to breastfeeding. After all, just like breastfeeding, Baby Led Weaning follows baby's needs and fosters a sense of self control. Wait... I know what you're thinking.. Self Control? What is she talking about? And Baby Led Weaning.. WHAT WEANING?! First of all, lets talk about WHAT the heck Baby Lead Weaning (BLW) even is!

Weaning, in this instance, refers to the addition of breastmilk compliments, not the removal of breastfeeds. With baby led weaning, baby eats what we eat! Sorta.. mostly.

Okay so I'm not giving my 6 month old a slice of pizza, but he will totally eat (read: play with, gnaw on, explore, and sometimes ingest) steamed carrots, chicken, or even steak and much more.

Now I know you really think I'm crazy. My baby doesn't even have teeth and I'm feeding him steak? Yeah. Okay.

Baby is able to explore different colors, tastes, and textures accurately through this feeding method

We start off by providing foods that are easy for a baby to grasp. This would be foods cut in LARGE pieces, like soft cooked carrot sticks, chicken strips, soft cooked sweet potato sticks, and yes, even strips of steak. Baby is able to explore different colors, tastes, and textures accurately through this feeding method, rather than having weird unnatural combinations spoon fed to him that even most adults gag at.

Most babies start out slow. They may not actually EAT for a couple of weeks. That is okay. Generally, they will eat when they're ready. But won't they choke? I know you're panicking right now. Let's think of it this way. When eating puree, a baby is given food, sometimes against his will, not to explore and chew (developing oral motor skills and coordination), but rather to swallow. It's kind of like learning to run before walking, or starting on a two wheeler with no training wheels or balance practice. Babies who learn to swallow before they learn to process food are more likely to choke. A baby's gag reflex starts out rather shallow in his mouth. If he's met all the markers for safe solid introduction, the gag reflex will be a protective measure against choking. It sounds terrifying, but its normal and even a good thing. They're learning their limits with a built in safety net. Eventually the gag reflex is deeper into the throat, and they can swallow once they've learned to process food. Yes, babies can still choke and it's important to know what to look for. But this holds true for any feeding method, and heck, even when they're not eating, but rather playing on the floor and finding small pieces of random crap you have no idea existed...

Signs of Choking

Silent - No sounds of gagging

Panicked Expression

Turning Blue

Not Breathing due to Clogged Airway

If your baby is truly choking, administer baby Heimlich maneuver and call 911. You can learn this maneuver if you take a CPR and First Aid class.

Some important safety measures to help prevent choking would to ensure food is cut up at an appropriate size. It is also important not to combine traditional weaning (purees) with baby led weaning. The back and forth between automatic swallowing or processing the food can be confusing while they learn. Pick one method and stick to it.

What was I saying about self control? Breastfeeding on demand teaches a baby learn his or her limits and biological cues. When they are full, they stop eating. Period, dot. A breastfed baby is learns to self regulate their feeding, and baby led weaning allows them to continue developing this sense of self regulation and self control. What a great idea to teach healthy eating habits from the beginning! Once baby becomes a master of larger cut foods and has a well developed pincer grasp, they can go on to start eating smaller cuts and foods such as blueberries, eggs, peas, etc. Again, barring any allergies (discuss allergenic food introduction with your doctors), there is no list of "must avoid" foods other than honey. Foods like popcorn wouldn't be considered particularly safe, and hot dogs and grapes should always be cut into small pieces to avoid choking.

Personally, we stuck to vegetables, some fruits, eggs, and meats until 12 months, at which time we added carbs and a wider variety of food. This is not a special recommendation, just personal preference, as we didn't want him to get a taste for sweets or crave carbs, and we wanted to foster a tolerance of healthy foods. I don't know if it worked or not. What I do know is my 2 year old LOVES brocolli and used to adore scrambled eggs with kale, onions, pepper, and cheese. So take that for what it's worth. A coincidence or a positive consequences, who knows?

Don't forget to always offer a breastfeed before offering solids, as milk still needs to be the main source of nutrition for the first year!

Have you tried baby led weaning? What were your baby's first foods? Share your experiences!

Did you find this information helpful? Share now to introduce this information to your friends and family!

#solids #babyledweaning #BLW #selfregulation #firstfoods

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